“The greatest strength of Perfect Sisters is not that it is the perfect movie, but that it is all about how the movie makes the viewer feel rather than the actual events unfolding…This is the perfection in Perfect Sisters, there may be many parts that fall just a little flat, or a bit odd at times, but it is the introspective aspect that [makes it work]. It is truly unique in it’s ability to act as a mirror and make you take a deep look at yourself, however uncomfortable that prospect may be.” – 3.6/5 (genre)
This movie was an interesting choice considering the day. Obviously, back when I was making my list of movies to watch (and the order) I read the description, but I guess it just didn’t dawn on me to re-read it. So watching a movie on Mother’s Day about two girls who murder their mother is a little more irony than I think I’m willing to process right now. I guess that says whatever it says about me.
Perfect Sisters does at least one thing perfectly: Transitioning between the cavalier take on the macabre, and the helpless desperation of an impossible situation. Sadly, this is likely a place many children have found themselves, and just watching these two girls as no one would even listen to them or help them made me feel powerless, I can only imagine how the people who really live this life feel. Actually, I don’t think I can, and to say that I can imagine how they feel is really probably an insult, and only wish that I could help.
But to the movie. Perfect Sisters is about, as one may have guessed, two sisters; Sandra (Abigail Breslin) and Beth (Georgie Henley), who have been nearly inseparable their entire lives. This movie is based off a true story, though how accurate it is I have not attempted to verify and so will leave that to other viewers. They cling to each other because they have no one else to hold on to, their mother Linda (Mira Sorvino) is an alcoholic who continuously losses her jobs and dates an endless string of abusive men, most of whom also fall into some realm of being pedophiles. Interestingly, the movie starts off in an almost happy and goofy way as the girls lie in front of their latest home and imagine the perfect mother. A series of “ideal” mothers parade out the door and they each weigh in on the likely hood of that particular one being perfect, and decide that while they are all better than the one they have, none are perfect. This is done in an almost cartoony fashion, which was somewhat off putting at first, but later became a very surreal experience as the “ideal” mom progressed from a simply loving, caring person to one that embodied the darkest aspects of Sandra and Beth’s hearts. It’s so over the top it actually works.
This is yet another movie which begins with and ends with a main character narrating, however unlike the last two movies (Sisterhood of the Night, The Damned) this narration was both solid and poignant. At first I wrote it off as being just a literary device that I’ve just happened to catch multiple times in a row, but it works here and adds impact at the end. These two sisters couldn’t be much different from each other; Sandra is the obvious wanna be popular girl, prom queen type while Beth fairs to the goth side. Their are definite shades of Ginger Snaps in the closeness of the sisters and how they act with each other versus with other people. The carefree discussion of death and murder is also very reminiscent, though here it is about their mother and not themselves.
Their mother continues to spiral with the cyclical progression of drinking, losing her job, drinking more and failing to get a new job, drinking more etc. Until she finally tries to kill herself and Sandra has to stop her. It is interesting the persona that Sandra takes to the outside world, the carefree valley girl who only cares about being noticed and being popular and yet she’s the glue that keeps this family from tearing itself apart. She is continually encouraging their mother that she can do better and will do better, and comforting Beth when needed. Beth takes the dark loner, the strong outer shell to the rest of the world, but in reality she is the weaker of the two and constantly relies on Sandra for strength. This changes later in the movie, but I won’t spoil the reasons.
Things continue to trend towards bad to worse until their mother’s latest boyfriend assaults Beth in the hallway during the night. Then he begins to beat their mom, while continually trying to molest Beth and from this the idea to kill their mother for the insurance money and the idea that their lives would be better off without her comes into being. It starts as a joke, a release from the horrid home life they have and they share it with Beth’s boyfriend and Ashley (Zoe Belkin) . It becomes a “murder club” and they constantly scheme up ways that it could be done. Until, finally, something happens which makes Sandra snap and the idea goes from theoretical to possible for her.
One would think that this would culminate in the murder of their mother, as I’ve already mentioned this is what happens, but even though we witness the murder this is not the most moving moment. I won’t say it isn’t moving, or disturbing as it is much more realistic than most movies would try to make it, and the devastating impact on Sandra is obvious from the very first moment beyond their mother’s last breath. The fact that this is not the culmination of emotional impact in this movie, but what lies beyond it is is something that made me love it, and kind of dislike myself for loving it. Part of me even felt a sense of satisfaction with the murder after seeing all the people who were perfectly capable of helping them but either refused to help or to even listen to them.
Perfect Sisters here is most certainly referring to the perfection of the bond between sisters, the trust, love, and the reliance on one another. Everything about their relationship is about the perfection that lies in the imperfect balancing act of emotions that tie them together. The need for one to always be strong when the other was weak, the knowledge that their was someone else who would always be there, even when that bond is stretched to its limits.
The acting is solid, though not without its flaws. There are times when Beth is difficult to believe, as if the emotion, or lack thereof, was not quite cutting through the depth of character. But, considering the amount of intricacy required to properly represent Sandra and Beth it isn’t surprising that at times it would not quite reach the lofty goal laid out for it. The supporting actors are good, and quite convincing, although their friend Ashley often felt just a little off, like I couldn’t quite believe that she was really the type of person the story was making her out to be. And then sometimes she was that perfect high school alpha female and it was undeniable that the actor captured it well.
The ending is a bit of mix for me. I don’t feel that it was bad, and in fact I’d say it was quite good, though it did end in true to form based on real events fashion, letting us know what happened to the ‘real’ people beyond the movie’s purview. What made it good is how it will make each viewer react differently. For me their was no remorse or pity about what these girl’s did to their mother (harsh I know), and I feel the strong sense of loss for each of them. But what I found to be the most peculiar part of the ending is that it made me mostly numb; somehow everything that had preceded it had led me to feel almost nothing, not in a ‘I’m bored with this’ way, but just numb. I feel like this was probably the best possible ending emotion one could hope for from a movie like this, none.
The greatest strength of Perfect Sisters is not that it is the perfect movie, because it isn’t, but that it is all about how the movie makes viewer feel rather than the actual events unfolding, which is a bit odd for a ‘based on a true story’ type of movie. I often found myself looking inward and finding memories that made me compare myself with them, my experiences against theirs and seeing how I measured up. Many of my emotions sparked by the movie were fueled by my own thoughts beyond what the movie itself was putting out. This is the perfection in Perfect Sisters, there may be many parts that fall just a little flat, or a bit odd at times, but it is the introspective aspect that drives it. The idea that with just a few tweaks in your life here and there and any one of these people could have been you, or maybe they are you and it makes you realize that. It is truly unique in it’s ability to act as a mirror and make you take a deep look at yourself, however uncomfortable that prospect may be.
Overall: 3.6/5 (genre)